Today is the Feast of Evelyn Underhill, an intriguing lady that I think of as my own daughter’s namesake. I have been interested in Evelyn for many years, first coming across her in my theological studies when we would brush up against mysticism (for one does not face it head on, right?).
I remember her desire to open up the “mystical experience” to anyone, to everyone. She insisted that there was an element within each person, a capability, a potential, that could be nurtured. There was an experience of God that could be fostered…out of gratitude. Extraordinary person…
Here is the collect for her feast day:
Collect of the Day: Evelyn Underhill, Writer, 1941
O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all your creatures: Grant that your Church, taught by your servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by your power, and guided by your Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to you all glory and thanksgiving, and attain with your saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have promised us by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The psalm appointed for her day is interesting, I think. I love the imagery in 80 around “hearing,” and “stirring up,” “restoration,” and “showing the light of your countenance.” This is a space of mystical experience, of an encounter with God that changes one’s life.
1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.
3 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
But we too often reject this notion, I think, these experiences. And we should ask if we reject them in one another…
This, I think, is the insight behind the Gospel text: this wonderful image of the stone that was rejected becoming the cornerstone.
Luke 20:9-19 (NRSV)
But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?
I often wonder what it would be like if we cultivated a spiritual community where there was intentional reflection on our spiritual experiences….in a space of discernment and reflection. Not just blind “acceptance” or something like that, but a space of reflection….of appreciation…..of gratitude…of wonder.
We don’t do this as a church…. And, I think Evelyn challenges us to enter into those parts of ourselves….to nurture and feed them….and to pay attention…